Howdy all you Supercultists out there on the interwebz! I’m Bad Movie Professor Cameron Coker (BS in “Lloyd Kaufman” with a minor in “Broadway Adaptations”) and I’ll be posting my hype-tacular speeches every week along with some long lost speeches from past Supercult Shows!
This week Supercult builds a well thought out venn diagram between The Jersey Shore and The Toxic Avenger!
Melvin “Junko” Ferd III was 98 lbs. of solid NERD, the mop boy of the Tromaville Health club, until the constant pranks and abuse from the Health club members lead him to a noxious fate. Emerging from a barrel of nuclear waste, Malvin is transformed into a hideously deformed superhuman force of justice against the wicked. Criminals, and bullies alike beware The Toxic Avenger!
Lloyd Kaufman worked for Cannon Films (producers of some of our favorite Supercult classics like Masters of the Universe, Captain America, and Cyborg) in the late 60’s and early 70’s. During this time he met John G. Avildsen (future Academy Award-winning director of Rocky and The Karate Kid) and worked on several low-budget films as a director, producer, screenwriter, and occasional actor. In 1974, Kaufman and his business partner Michael Herz founded Troma Entertainment and began producing and distributing indie action and comedy films. In order to pay the bills Kaufman did some freelance work on films like Rocky, Saturday Night Fever, and The Final Countdown, but for the most Troma Entertainment churned out profitable “sexy comedies” including Squeeze Play!, Waitress!, Stuck on You!, and The First Turn On! It wasn’t until 1985 with the release of a certain darkly comic superhero film that Troma experienced mainstream success.
One of these directors has made received critical acclaim for his work and has an enormous fan following. One spends most of his time goofing off and having an outrageous amount of fun doing what he loves. Surprise, both of those descriptions are of Lloyd Kaufman!
Reportedly Kaufman developed the idea for a movie set at a health club while on the set of Rocky. After reading a magazine article with the headline “Horror Film Is Dead”, Lloyd decided to fight the powers that be and turn the idea into his own version of a horror film. The film’s final outcome was less a bona fide horror film and more of a campy superhero-spoof with extreme violence embedded throughout. The setting of the movie in a health club and the movie was given a working title of Health Club Horror and lobby cards bearing this title can be viewed on Troma’s website. Filming took place at various locations in New Jersey, including Jersey City, Boonton, Harrison, and Rutherford during the summer of 1983.
Released in 1985, The Toxic Avenger was directed by Kaufman and stars a host of B-movie actors and actresses like Mark Torgl, Gary Schneider, Robert Prichard, Cindy Manion, Jennifer Babtist, Dan Snow, and Mitch Cohen who would go on to star in other Troma films. Jennifer Babtist and Robert Prichard actually fell in love on the set and got married afterwards. You can also catch a young Marisa Tomei, future Oscar-winner for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Mona Lisa Vito in My Cousin Vinnie as an extra coming out of a shower.
Toxic Avenger had a rough production with numerous on-set hang-ups. During the car wreck scene, the rigged car malfunctioned and almost killed the stunt driver controlling the vehicle. While shooting in Shinbone Alley, a homeless man stole a prop gun from one of the trailers and threatened the crew. According to Mitch Cohen, the actor who played the Toxie, the Toxic Avenger, the homeless man also walked up to him and offered him a drink, believing him to be a genuine homeless burn victim. The sheep that Mark Torgl had to kiss was infested with lice, but he did not find that out until after the scene was shot.
During the restaurant robbery scene the robber who has his arm ripped off actually only had one arm. In the scene one can see that his right arm is a prosthetic, as he never moves or uses this arm until Toxie rips it off. ‘Patrick Kilpatrick’ who played Leroy (the face-painted criminal at the Mexican restaurant) quit the film after having to point a shotgun at a baby. The location used for the Mexican Restaurant was actually called “The Mexican Place”, just like it was in the movie and is now a Popeye’s in Rutherford, NJ.
The practical gore effects were particularly troublesome, not because they were technically difficult to pull off, but because they were so visceral. In one scene a dog is shot and despite the fact that the dog had been trained to glide across the floor on command and its “guts” were spaghetti covered in gray paint, that scene received the most complaints of any other film up to that point for Troma. The head-crushing scene was accomplished by injecting a melon with corn syrup and red food dye, putting a wig on the melon and fitting the melon onto a dummy. The scene was actually based on a time when Lloyd Kaufman was backing a car out of his garage and accidentally hit his younger sister. Though nobody was harmed the memory haunted him for years.
Toxic Avenger was built from the ground up as a campy B-movie complete with gruesome practical effects and gratuitous nudity. More importantly, the Toxic Avenger is the film that built the house of Troma. It was Troma Entertainment’s first Horror film after so many sex comedies, but afterwards Troma focused almost exclusively on horror films. Despite only moderate success at the box office, making a mere $800,000 from a budget of $500,000, Toxic Avenger generated three film sequels, a stage musical production, and a children’s TV cartoon, Toxic Crusaders, which featured Toxie as a leader of a team of mutated superheroes who fought against evil alien polluters!
The Toxic Avanger paved the way for other quality Troma films like Tromeo and Juliet, Mother’s Day, and the Class of Nuke ‘em High series. Toxie himself is now the official icon of Troma Entertainment and has become somewhat of a cult movie culture idol. He marches in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade every year and he is a favorite of both military and environmental groups around the world.
The Toxic Avenger has an IMDB score of 6.2 and a Rotten Tomatoes 65%. It’s gruesome and it’s in bad taste, but it’s also brilliantly hilarious, and entertaining as F@*$! In short, it’s pure escapism, the perfect Supercult film to cap off a particularly Toxic week!
The Supercult show is proud to present, the first Super-Hero…from New Jersey!
The Toxic Avenger!